A friend of mine is certainly no linguistic scholar but over the years, she’s learned to communicate in several languages other than English.
The biggest benefit, of course, is that when traveling abroad, she can sometimes talk to people in their native tongue, instead of expecting them to speak English (American English at that!). Another benefit is a greater appreciation of language and its uses — how applying the grammar of one language to the spoken words of another language can sometimes lead to humorous results.
That’s the direction I’m taking here. There may be a few people out there who will think I’m making fun of a particular group, language or culture.
That’s not the case. Just imagine what Americans — a people not known for the ability to master foreign languages — are doing to other languages in similar situations. You should hear me trying to order food in a Japanese restaurant!
Here are some examples of “language mangling:”
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- Sign in a Tokyo hotel: Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing please not to read notice.
- In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
- In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
- Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.
- In a Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
- In the office of a Romanian doctor: Specialist in women and other diseases.
- In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.
- In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
- Weather forecaster on TV in India: We are unable to announce the weather. We depend on weather reports from the airport, which is closed, due to the weather. Whether we are able to give you the weather tomorrow will depend on the weather.
- Chinese host, lifting his glass in a toast to his American guests: Up your bottoms!
All of these examples of fractured English are true. They have been taken from hotels, travel brochures, restaurant menus, signs on the street and advertisements.
I would love to hear how Americans “butcher” languages from other cultures. I am sure there are many funny examples!
Just remember. People who can laugh together, can live together. And the world is getting smaller every day.